Normally, I draw the short straw when I pick ratings. We lose 1-0 and it’s a real chore to think of positive things to say. A poisoned chalice.
Not this time baby!!
James Trafford - 8.5
His kicking is powerful and on point almost every time. He has a calm authority, and almost a bit of a shithouse, too, taking the maximum time to pick up the ball on a few occasions, I imagine getting more and more under Sunderland’s skin each time. Didn’t have an awful lot to do on the day, as it was our attack that purred. He did smother sub Jack Clarke’s effort when through on goal though, as the Mackems tried and failed to find a consolation goal.
Oh and he got an assist with that monstrous (possibly wind assisted!) kick that Dion Charles judged the flight of magnificently.
The last keeper to start his career with three clean sheets was Simon Farnworth in the year of my birth, 1983. Can James make it four?!
Gethin Jones - 8.5
Love this boy. Calm, composed and playing with an air of someone who can see they belong at this level now, and possibly above.
Everything he does is precise and measured, with purpose.
Loves the club and we love him too.
Ricardo Santos - 9
The big man is back. This was Rico at his imperious best, swatting away all comers and dealing superbly with the threat of the division’s top scorer, Ross Stewart.
Stepped out of defence well at times, despite the odd hairy moment, as is customary.
Ian Evatt has realised that he looks better with others alongside him to give him that extra insurance. And boy, is it paying dividends!
George Johnston - 8.5
A very assured performance from the ex-Liverpool man. So glad he’s back to his best after a shaky spell, including a number of incidents which have shown up his lack of physical and aerial capabilities at times. But an important part of a very impressive and unruffled back three, one that very much suits his attributes.
Marlon Fossey - 9
What a signing this guy has been. Our all-action American hero has boundless energy that he channels brilliantly. The pick out from the right flank for Kieran Lee on the penalty spot that he struck over the bar perfectly illustrated the composure he possesses.
I can’t think of too many drawbacks to his game, but perhaps upper body strength is one, shown by the fact Clarke got the better of him in a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge for his one-on-one opportunity. But having the defensive nous of Gethin alongside him there will help no-end with that. Defenders are scared shitless of his pace and that outlet is just a fantastic thing to have in our side.
A little worried Fulham will see how well he’s doing and tie him down to a new deal, perhaps looking to send him out on another loan to a Championship club next season. Let’s hope Marlon, with the ball being in his court after all, enjoys his time here so much that he decides he wants to put down some roots here and signs in the summer. Either way, let’s just enjoy him while we can!
MJ Williams - 8.5
Another excellent display from our Mr Reliable. Our game today was about pressing and harrying the opposition into submission and he played that but further up the pitch to enable that. His passing was crisp and often first time, knowing where he was playing it before it got to him. Another who seems to love playing for this club and again the feeling is reciprocal.
Kieran Lee - 10
Absolutely magnificent. That was about as good as it gets.
I’ve not trawled through the social media reactions to the game yet, after a bit of a heavy night of celebration on Saturday rendered yesterday null and void. But I’d like to think people have raved about his ball recoveries. Constantly winning the ball upfield in dangerous transition situations, perfect passes and beautiful flicks. That assist for Dapo had me staring at the pitch in awe and his goal was superbly taken. This is already his best goalscoring season of his career in the league and we’ve still got 19 games left!
The only blot on his superb copybook was the aforementioned missed chance from Fossey’s pull-back. But we’ll let him off, seeing as we won 6-0!
Aaron Morley - 9
What a start this lad has had to his second spell at the club. The Radcliffe-born schemer was everywhere, rarely lost the ball and his passing range and technique had the Mackems running scared all game.
For a twenty-one year old lad he had bundles of experience, and it shows. Such a cool head in possession and he’s slotted in like he’s played a hundred games for us. Keep it up Aaron!!
Declan John - 8.5
After a 6-0 win you really don’t want to be negative, but this season I feel he’s been our weak link more often than not. So it was nice to see his levels of confidence return, as the team’s rose immeasurably with each and every effort that bulged the Sunderland net.
Yes, his goal was a bit of a mishit, but when it’s your day, it’s your day. Needs to have more belief in his own ability and this was a good start.
Noticed Johnston was giving him defensive instructions in the first half, and that sort of communication is great to see. It’s a must if our recent resurgence in defensive resilience is to continue.
Dion Charles - 10
I said to the chap next to me, ‘was that the best Bolton centre forward’s display in the last decade?’
Okay, I might have been prone to hyperbole, given the overwhelming quality of the display, but looking back I don’t think I’m far wrong.
He hassled and harried the life out of the Mackem’s defence and took both his goals so unbelievably well. He was so hungry and decisive it makes me so excited to see what he’s going to do in the future with us. Simply superb Dion!!
Dapo Afolayan - 9.5
Rightly restored to the starting line-up and he repaid Evatt’s faith with a barnstorming display, including starting and finishing one of the best counter attacking goals that I’ve had the fortune of seeing live.
How he wriggled away from the attentions of two players then had the poise, vision and execution to spray the ball perfectly into Charles’ path was just a delight. To see him bust a gut to get in the middle of the box, then profit from Lee’s outrageous flick and calmly pass the ball home was orgasmic.
Could’ve had more goals and played like a man determined to show Evatt that he simply has to start every game moving forward.
Jon Dadi Bodvarsson - 7.5
Did well when he came on with the triple substitution, showing some neat footwork and good awareness of his teammates. Will be a very useful player for us.
Kieran Sadlier - 7.5
One rasping drive over the bar showcased his penchant for the spectacular and seemed to enjoy the occasion. I mean, who wouldn’t! Sure he’ll have a big part to play. Just glad he didn’t make contact when he tried to scythe down a breaking Sunderland player, as that could’ve been a red, given he was so far away from the ball!
Amadou Bakayoko - 8
Lovely cross to try and find Charles, which resulted in the comedy own goal courtesy of Danny Batth’s flying header. Got himself involved and the last person the Mackem’s defence needed bounding after them, having been run ragged by Charles and Dapo all game. A typically over enthusiastic challenge brought a booking for the big man.
Ian Evatt - 10
Played the right team and his change of shape fits the personnel like a glove. He, and quite clearly Chris Markham too, can certainly spot a player. Almost every signing we’ve made since January 2021 has improved the squad and the window we’ve had has been absolutely brilliant.
So glad things have turned round for us and for him too, after getting some unnecessary abuse in a season that was always going to be about consolidation and transitioning to a younger, more fluid side that can mount a promotion push next campaign.